HPO Music Director Gemma New recently met with our Principal Flute Leslie Newman to chat about Leslie’s upcoming solo at Mozart in Paris on March 25th. She will perform Ibert’s Flute Concerto, a wonderful example of the particular style and tradition of French music in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Leslie Newman has been HPO’s Principal Flute since 2008. A prominent orchestral musician and music teacher in the Greater Toronto Area, some of you may remember her from her solo performance in our online concert in October of 2020. She performed Surge by Iman Habibi, whose work Jeder Baum Spricht is on our May 13 concert program. She also participated in a wonderful interview with Gemma New and Iman Habibi all about this work and performance. Click here to watch that performance and interview on our YouTube Channel.
Q&A with Leslie Newman and Gemma New
Gemma New: Hello everyone and welcome to our conversation today about the program for Mozart in Paris!
The concert takes us on a romantic musical trip to Paris with four miniatures that are each full of magic. When we think of miniatures we might think, “What am I missing out on?” But you’re not missing out on anything with this program. It’s like a beautiful cupcake, or a wonderful little delicately painted toy. There is so much wonder and fantasy inside each of these pieces.
To talk about the Ibert Flute Concerto on this program, we have our Principal Flute Leslie Newman joining us. Leslie, welcome!
Leslie Newman: Hi Gemma! Thank you, and that’s a beautiful introduction about this concert!
Gemma New: This is one of my favourite programs of the whole season. We are especially excited to hear you perform this concerto. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with this virtuosic and brilliant work for the flute?
Leslie Newman: Yes, it is a concerto that is very dear to all flute players, I believe. It’s one of our spectacular showpieces. It’s not a piece I’ve had a lot of opportunity to play, so it’s exciting to play it with our orchestra. I’ve performed it a couple of times and it goes a long way back in my history. I first played it when I was an undergrad student with my school orchestra when I was about eighteen years old. It was totally thrilling and exciting to play it then. I have played it once professionally, and now I have a chance to come back to it again. I’m so looking forward to it. It’s a fantastic piece and I think the audience will just love it.
THREE MAGICAL MOVEMENTS OF IBERT’S FLUTE CONCERTO
Gemma New: One of the words I would describe the piece with is effervescent because the flute is exhilarating. It takes us on this rollercoaster ride of a bazillion notes and so many different colours. There’s a lot of jazz and blues in it. Can you take us through this magical work?
Leslie Newman: I’d love to, and that’s a great way to describe it. The first movement, the Allegro, is a dazzling run of sixteenth notes, but it feels very witty and very French. It’s also very conversational because he pairs the flute with other solo woodwinds in the orchestra, like bassoon and clarinet.
The second movement, the Andante, is so vocal. There’s a sort of gentle melancholy to the theme of the second movement. There’s an absolutely glorious solo violin melody and the flute has a floating, lovely countermelody.
The third movement, the Allegro Scherzando,is very much inspired by jazz. There’s a real sense of three against two. There are exuberant horns, and triplets at the beginning that are full of joy and energy. So we do take a trip through a lot of different soundscapes in this piece.
Gemma New: That third movement is like scherzo almost. It has so many moments of jokes and fun and games. You never know which direction it’s going to take. You’re always on the edge of your seat because it goes so fast and then suddenly changes direction. There’s an absolute contrast with the second movement being complete bliss, melancholy and lightness as if we’re trying to find a spiritual calm inside. It’s so achingly beautiful.
SOME HISTORY OF FRENCH MUSIC FOR FLUTE
Gemma New: Can you tell us a little bit of the backstory about how the Ibert Flute Concerto came about?
Leslie Newman: I’d love to. At this time at the Paris Conservatoire, a very famous flautist named Marcel Moyse asked Ibert to write a concerto for him. They were contemporaries, just a year apart in age, and they would have been in their early forties at this time.
It was written in 1932 and premiered a couple of years later. The conductor was another very great French flautist and another pivotal pedagogues in French flute playing today, Phillipe Gaubert.
Moyse and Gaubert both studied with Paul Taffanel, who we really consider to be the father of flute playing today – of French flute playing for sure, but flute playing in general. He really brought the flute back to being a solo instrument and commissioned so many pieces. So, these three great flute players had a real influence on the writing of the Ibert Concerto.
Gemma New: What a wonderful story. It’s so virtuosic for flute because it has so many notes and it goes so fast. You have to find a moment to breathe! Can you tell us about the challenges of the piece or things to look out for?
Leslie Newman: Well it is fast, that’s for sure. It’s fast and it’s relentless, but it’s also super well-written. Ibert really knew the potential of the flute. He used that knowledge to write a piece that, while showcasing the flute so beautifully, is also accessible and masterfully written.
THE COLOURFUL TRADITION OF FRENCH MUSIC
Gemma New: I like what you said about that because they were such skillful composers from Paris who knew the instruments so well. That’s why the French music on this concert program are full of colour, because these composers knew all of the individual instruments and how to bring out so much contrast.
You’ll find for this concert that the orchestra is a delicate and intimate size, but the amazing bursts of colour and fiery nature comes out, almost blinding with light at times. And then it has the softest, most touching moments because they use every instrument in the orchestra as a colour and combine them very thoughtfully and skillfully.
So it’s an incredible program, a most-colourful excursion through Paris, and we can’t wait to enjoy the Ibert Flute Concerto performed by our superb Principal Flautist, Leslie. Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today! Is there anything else you’d like to encourage our audience to listen for on March 25?
Leslie Newman: The whole program is so beautiful, and my biggest sadness is that I can’t play everything on it because it’s just such a great program! I just encourage everyone to come and enjoy a wonderful taste of Paris in this wintery season!
Don’t miss Leslie Newman’s HPO solo and this romantic repertoire of French music!
Mozart in Paris
Saturday, March 25 at 7:30pm
FirstOntario Concert Hall
Available for online viewing
Get Live or Online concert tickets